A Metahistory of the Clash of Civilisations

Sunday, April 17, 2011

A Metahistory of the Clash of Civilisations: Us and Them Beyond Orientalism

Author: Arshin Adib-Moghaddam

Hardcover: 288 pages
Publisher: C Hurst & Co Publishers Ltd (28 Feb 2011)
Language English
ISBN-10: 1849040974
ISBN-13: 978-1849040976

Beginning with the wars of ancient Persia and Greece, Arshin Adib-Moghaddam searches for the theoretical underpinnings of the "clash of civilizations" that has determined so much of our political and cultural discourse. He revisits the Crusades, colonialism, the Enlightenment, and our contemporary war on terror, and he engages with both eastern and western thinkers, such as Adorno, Derrida, Farabi, Foucault, Hegel, Khayyam, Marcuse, Marx, Said, Ibn Sina, and Weber.

Adib-Moghaddam's investigation explains the conceptual genesis of the clash of civilizations and the influence of western and Islamic representations of the other. He highlights the discontinuities between Islamism and the canon of Islamic philosophy, which distinguishes between Avicennian and Qutbian discourses of Islam, and he reveals how violence became inscribed in western ideas, especially during the Enlightenment. Expanding critical theory to include Islamic philosophy and poetry, this metahistory refuses to treat Muslims and Europeans, Americans and Arabs, and the Orient and the Occident as separate entities.

This book seeks to dispel the myth that we have ever been embroiled in some 'clash of civilisations'. Adib-Moghaddam traverses various intellectual disciplines in order to find a pathway through the conceptual maze that has habituated us to think in 'tribal' categories. Accompanying the reader on this journey from the wars between ancient Persia and Greece, the Crusades, Colonialism and the Enlightenment to the contemporary 'wars on terror' are thinkers from 'East' and 'West': Adorno, Derrida, Farabi, Foucault, Hegel, Khayyam, Marcuse, Marx, Said, Ibn Sina, Weber. In asking where ideas such as the 'clash of civilisations' come from, and by whom they are perpetuated, Adib-Moghaddam engages with both western and Islamic representations of the 'other'. He demonstrates a) the discontinuities between 'Islamism' and the canon of classical Islamic philosophy distinguishing between 'Avicennian' and 'Qutbian' discourses of Islam, and b) how the violence inscribed in the idea of the 'West', especially during the period of the Enlightenment, continues to cast a shadow on world politics today. Expanding the geography of critical theory to include the canons of Islamic philosophy and poetry, A Metahistory of the Clash of Civilisations refuses to divorce Muslims from Europeans, Americans from Arabs, the Orient from the Occident. As such, it presents a frontal attack on our current cultural reality and Islamist-Western agitation against each other.

About the Author

Arshin Adib-Moghaddam is lecturer in the politics of the Middle East at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. He is the author of Iran in World Politics: The Question of the Islamic Republic and The International Politics of the Persian Gulf: A Cultural Genealogy.


"This passionate and elegant work is a vigorous antidote to a constellation of
discourses steeped in the Weltanschauung that the title of Samuel Huntington's
infamous book encapsulates so well. Arshin Adib-Moghaddam's reflections are a
stimulating contribution to Edward Said's legacy of radical critique of all
essentialist constructions of otherness."
—Gilbert Achcar, author (with Noam Chomsky) of Perilous Power: The Middle East
and U.S. Foreign Policy

"What Arshin Adib-Moghaddam has done is to establish an exceptionally powerful
refutation of clashing civilizations. Eloquently, rigorously, and
imaginatively, he traces and critiques genealogies of binary and simple
oppositional thought and argues that the future of the world depends on our
accepting and understanding complexities and internal oppositions."
—Stephen Chan, School of Oriental and African Studies, 2010 International
Studies Association (ISA) Eminent Scholar in Global Development

'Eloquent, powerful, incisive and impressive in its range, A Metahistory of the Clash of Civilisations is a masterly work of critical deconstruction in the finest tradition of Michel Foucault and Edward Said. For anyone wishing to better understand the current state of international politics, this book is absolutely essential.' — Richard Jackson, Secretary of the British International Studies Association (BISA)

*Link for Further Reading: e-IR’s Maysam Behravesh conducted an exclusive interview with Dr Arshin Adib-Moghaddam, on his latest book: A Metahistory of the Clash of Civilizations: US and Them Beyond Orientalism:

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